Now happily settled in a Freehold, NJ, retirement home where he plays cards with fellow WWII veterans and wards off the advances of sexually aggressive female residents (I kid you not), Pop-Pop is, and always has been, a pistol.
He never attended college. His parents insisted, instead, that he work full-time to supplement the large family’s expenses (Note: Pop-Pop is one of five children, three of whom are still alive).
He worked a series of blue collar and warehousing jobs until he retired at the ripe, old age of 61.
From day one, he’s been an arch conservative.
Had there been a Tea Party and a Bill O’Reilly when I was growing up, Pop-Pop would have been strong supporters of each.
And, he’s never hidden his ‘America: love it or leave it’ image and reputation.
Case in point: I pick him up at Applewood (or, ‘The Happy Apple’ as Pop-Pop calls it) every Sunday night at 6pm sharp.
My assignment: take Pop-Pop to a local restaurant for dinner. Invariably, like a scene from the movie, Ground Hog Day, we will have the following conversation as we drive away in my red, BMW M3 convertible:
Pop-Pop: “Pretty snazzy car. You just get this?”
Me: “Nope. You ride in it every Sunday.”
Pop-Pop: “Oh yeah. Hey, do you have to drive so fast?”
Me: “l just want to demonstrate German engineering to you, Pop-Pop.”
Pop-Pop: “You mean the same German engineering that lost WWII?”
And so it goes.
I remember one especially telling moment long ago and far away. It occurred right after I’d gotten engaged.
My wife-to-be and I decided it was time for the four parents to meet. And, they did so at The Russian Tea Room.
Afterwards, my father-in-law to be pulled me aside and said, “Your dad wasn’t anything like what I expected. He’s one tough guy. Hate to say this, but the tough guys always die first.”
Well, Pop-Pop has not only outlived the three, other parents he’s absolutely thriving. In addition to an-always packed social calendar, Pop-Pop swims 10 laps a day, walks two miles AND lifts weight. And, truth be told, he STILL scares the sh*t out of me (Note: Pop-Pop was an amateur boxer in his youth and packed a mighty wallop for a mighty long time).
I’m not sure how much longer Pop-Pop will keep on defying the odds, but it sure seems like he’s a good bet to hit the century mark. And he absolutely adores telling people his age (since most think he’s in his late 70’s).
Final note: whenever he’s asked the secret of longevity, Pop-Pop smiles and says, “Inhale and exhale. Try it. It’s easy.”
I think there’s another answer for his long life: Pop-Pop’s stayed true to his original image and reputation. He’s always held the same convictions and, right or wrong, it’s made him a strong, better person. Happy Father’s Day, Pop-Pop!